AL Central Showdown: Indians, Tigers Fight to Lead Division
ESPN - Still searching for more offense, the Detroit Tigers look to take over the AL Central lead from the Cleveland Indians when the clubs continue their three-game series at Comerica Park on Wednesday night. Detroit (68-57) won for only the eighth time in 25 games with a 2-1 victory in the series opener Tuesday. The Tigers were held to three hits, but ended a three-game losing streak and pulled within one-half game of first-place Cleveland (68-56). Two of the hits were back-to-back homers by Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen in the fifth inning, and rookie Jair Jurrjens helped make it stand up by allowing only one hit -- Jhonny Peralta's homer in the sixth. Jurrjens pitched 6 2-3 innings, Joel Zumaya -- activated off the disabled list earlier in the day -- retired his only batter and Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones each worked an inning to preserve the win. "That was a great baseball game," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I guess it's easy for me to say that because we won." The Tigers have scored a total of just 11 runs in their last four games. They batted .290 and scored 512 runs to lead the majors in both departments at the All-Star break, but over the last 25 games, they are hitting just .263 while averaging 4.2 runs. Detroit is bidding to capture a home series for the first time since the All-Star break. The Tigers have lost nine of their last 15 games at Comerica Park, managing two runs or fewer seven times. Cleveland lost for the sixth time in nine games and is also hoping to get untracked with its bats. The Indians have scored 27 runs in their last nine contests. Detroit's Placido Polanco returned to the lineup and went 0-for-3 after missing six games due to a flu bug that had plagued the club. The one hitter who hasn't slowed down much for either team is Ordonez, who has 41 of his 111 RBIs since the break. Ordonez, a leading candidate for AL MVP honors, is batting .388 (19-for-49) against Cleveland this year. The Detroit cleanup hitter, however, is 6-for-34 (.176) in his career against Paul Byrd (11-5, 4.41 ERA), who will start Wednesday for Cleveland. Byrd is 7-2 with a 3.36 ERA in his career against the Tigers, including 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in two outings this year. Byrd is looking to win his fourth straight road start after allowing one run and eight hits over six innings on Friday in a 2-1 victory at Tampa Bay. "Somebody asked me today if I was pitching well," Byrd said. "I didn't know what to tell them. I didn't know if I was pitching well because when they hit the ball hard it went right to somebody. Sometimes this game doesn't make a lot of sense and you have to give some credit to the guys behind you, and I feel like that's what happened tonight." The veteran right-hander has a 1.31 ERA in his last three road starts. Byrd also has been able to shut down Tigers designated hitter Gary Sheffield, who is 4-for-25 (.160) against him. Detroit starter Justin Verlander (13-4, 3.63) will face Cleveland for the fourth time this season. He's 1-1 with a 5.50 ERA in the first three outings, but is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three career home starts against the Indians. Verlander pitched well enough to win his second straight outing Thursday when he yielded three runs and seven hits over 5 1-3 innings in an 8-5 win over the New York Yankees. However, he lasted less than six innings for the third time in his last six starts. Cleveland slugger Travis Hafner is 4-for-19 (.211) with one homer and seven strikeouts against Verlander.